Malibu Beach Guide
As far as beaches go Malibu is probably one of the world's most famous. Yet to those who haven't been there it can be a little confusing. "Malibu Beach" is an actual beach but it has become a general term for many that sums up any beach that is situated in the Malibu area. In fact there about three dozen beaches in Malibu so if your from out of town like us it can be a bit of a beach figuring out where to go and what to expect.
Before I share my top five family Malibu Beach locations I want to footnote that if your Australian and reading this you need to go with the flow. Californian beaches are not like ours and the experience should not be treated as such. Malibu by far is home to my favourite Californian beaches but as a general rule don't expect white sands, the cleanest beaches and translucent waters. The experience is entirely different and more so about being apart of the Californian beach culture which I love. If you go off the beaten track you can really find some gems and I hope the below will get you there. Travelling to me is about living like a local which is why next time your in town get amongst it with our top five beach spots.
1. SURFRIDER BEACH
This is my favourite family beach in the area. I like how easy it is to get too, a short walk with the kids if you park on the Pacific Coast Highway or from the carpark on the beach side which for some reason we could always get a park. The waves here are friendly, fun long right handers. The view out to Malibu Pier is iconic and it has a real assortment of local characters here that you can see most days at the same time. It reminded me of home. I loved the long boarding crew at this beach. Really popular and fun to watch. Lifeguards are on watch and there are loads of families here as well as a hardcore surf/longboard crew. You can expect a few drop ins. Look out for our friend Dusty the lifeguard. Also it's a short walk to Malibu Pier for a yummy lunch and a glass of Rose. Did I say it was my favourite.
2. EL MATADOR BEACH
We didn't get to spend time here but we did drive past it on the way to Ojai and it looked beautiful. Very different to all the Cali beaches so far. Lots of craggy rock formations, caves and even whitish sands. It's a beautiful winding drive along the pacific coast highway to the western outskirts of Malibu where you need to keep a sharp eye out for the tiny parking lot. Try and park here as it is very dangerous crossing the road with the kids apparently. They also say it's a hike down 150 foot bluff via a stairway which doesn't sound very kid friendly but I think it would be worth the effort as most main listed kid friendly beaches in California are very big, lack personality or local community.
3. LATIGO BEACH
This is a hidden gem. It's just past Malibu Pier on Latigo Shore Drive. Make sure you don't park here as the locals won't be happy but there is free parking on PCH just mind the cars. This is officially a public beach with a public entrance but just be respectful of the local residents that live here. This is all round a winner. Less crowded then most beaches, a really great wave for beginners or a fun easy wave for the experienced. Safe for swimming with the kids and plenty of sand to set up shop. It's just around the corner from Malibu Pier so the views are winning.
4. POINT DUME
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Ok the bad news is that Little Dume is one of my favourite Malibu beaches BUT it is a private beach which only residents have access too with a key. I share this with you not to be annoying but because if you happen to have the good fortune of being friends with a friend who is friends with a friend that has a friend with a key then take them up on the offer for a visit down the winding path to the cliff side beach. The good news is that you can access a public portion of the beach from Big Dume Beach at Point Dume State Park. It is a bit of a trek so if you're going with smaller children not so ideal. If you are a surfer I highly recommend a paddle. The water is so much cleaner here then the neighbouring beaches in Venice and Santa Monica. Make sure you go at low tide so you get sand and not too late in the afternoon, the sun goes down over the cliffs and it can get chilly.
This is just easy if you're living near or up in Topanga Canyon. It's the very first beach you will see in Malibu. A good surf break it is one of those ones where you might not spend the day but hit early for a hang with the kids, grab a coffee, have a swim or a walk. Sam would often surf here for a quick session with the locals. It's one of those beaches that you kind of start the day with. No fuss. No scene.
TOURIST TIP : MALIBU COLONY BEACH
Now this is what is known officially as Malibu Beach. They say the entire beach is Californian public property even though street access is private and only possible if you have a home in the colony. If the tide is low you can walk here from Malibu Lagoon State Park, which is very close to Surfrider Beach. I put this on the list purely as a tourist guide. It's not for a family day out but if your curious about the celebrity homes that are literally built on the sand this might be your cup of tea.
Photographed by Sam Elsom on location at Surfrider Beach, Malibu, California
For more information on the twenty mile stretch of beaches check out the App Our Malibu Beaches